Capitals sift the ashes after loss to Phoenix
EDINBURGH Capitals slipped to their 20th defeat in 26 Elite League games last night as Manchester Phoenix underlined their superiority over the Scots with a 4-3 win.
Doug Christiansen's men were 3-0 down after 16 minutes but Andrej Rajcak opened Capitals' account after 30 minutes and Fife-born defenceman Craig Mitchell made it 3-2 after 44 minutes.
David Beauregard, Phoenix's top marksman, netted to make it 4-2 before Mark Hurtubise made the home side sweat with a third with less than three minutes remaining.
The result extended Manchester's victory run to five games this season and was not what Capitals wanted ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with basement rivals Hull Stingrays on Sunday (face-off 6pm). The Yorkshire outfit have struggled all season but already possess a valuable road win at Murrayfield.
That came on September 21 when they edged a close encounter 3-2. On their next visit on November 16 then were disposed of 7-3.
Edinburgh have also tasted success home and away. A 4-2 defeat on September 24 was followed by a 6-1 road win on November 8.
The outcome is on a knife edge and it could all come down to goaltending. Curtis Cruickshank has a save percentage of 89 over 28 games for Stingrays while Pasi Raitainen, whose solidity has boosted confidence among his new team-mates at the Riversdale rink, has a percentage of 91.2, but he has only played in eight games.
Of course, firepower could also be a key. Hurtubise has impressed with his points so far this season. The latest official statistics show the quiet-spoken Canadian in an admirable third place. In 27 games he has snatched 12 goals and set-up 26 others for a points total of 38.
Hull's top scorer is Matt Reynolds, who is 11th equal with 27 points, 12 goals and 15 assists from 25 games. Jeff Glowa is 14th equal with 26 points, 16 goals and ten assists in 25 games and you have to go a long way down the stats to find the next Hull name.
Hurtubise is fully aware of the threat that Hull can pose and he admitted that they are a different proposition now that several key men are back from injury.
He said: "They have improved and have had some good results recently. They beat Basingstoke Bison by a big score last weekend. The last time we played them they had a few injuries but they have a few guys back and they must be improving.
"We have to be ready for them. However, we worry about our own game first before worrying about them. We're getting to crunch time and there are still a lot of games to be played.
"We showed last Sunday that we can compete with the best as we took league leaders Sheffield Steelers to penalty shots.
"That sends out a message to the rest of the teams in the division that we can play with anybody.
"It also shows that Capitals never quit. We maybe don't have the skill that some of the other teams have so the only way we can win is to work hard."
Hurtubise has been boosted by the contribution of young lions like Iain Bowie and Neil Hay, who have stepped up due to recent injuries. And Hull's young guns are also showing the way. Coach Rick Strachan has been hugely impressed by the recent contribution of Fife-born Lee Mitchell since the gritty Scot was switched to centre.
Mitchell, 21, has registered two goals and five assists in the last five games and Strachan said: "We have moved Mitchy to centre and he is playing great, especially for a guy who hasn't played there before. A centre needs to be good in both ends and Mitchy has been doing a great job. He is strong, he listens to what you tell him – it has been a pleasant surprise."
Mitchell's little brother Craig plays for Capitals and there will be no brotherly love between the two in the crucial encounter on Sunday. Craig has been receiving more and more ice time for the Edinburgh club as injuries have hit the squad.
And he will have to be at his best to curb the predatory instincts of his brother.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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